Please check out my main blog, Obi-Wan Kimberly Is Your Only Hope, where I write about web development and technical management!

Kimberly Blessing Hi, my name is Kimberly Blessing. I'm a computer scientist, Web developer, standards evangelist, feminist, and geek. This is where I write about life, the Web, technology, women's issues, and whatever else comes to mind.

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Web Stuff Blog Archive

It’s Redesign Season

I always try to redesign my site before SxSW — don’t know why, just call it my own, personal SxSW tradition. With the various projects I’ve had on my plate, time’s been tight, so I decided to bust out this funky design (à la Duran Duran‘s Big Thing) that I’d played around with a while back. If you hate it, cheer up! My RSS feed will now supply you with the full text of my posts, so you can read that instead.

Anyway, here I am trying to uphold my own little tradition. But it seems that I’m not alone! I popped by a few sites this morning and saw that these folks redesigned too:

  • Rodney Anonymous Thoughtless for the Day – was clearly redesigned last month, but I missed it. Glad to see he’s posting more frequently again.
  • Brandon @ The Dark Cyde – moved from Drupal to WordPress. Yay!
  • Phoebe @ SimplifierLab – I loved her old site (except for the Flash bit) but I’m really digging this one. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with for a project we’re going to be collaborating on!

And look! I just posted to my blog! Gee whiz, it’s like winning the lottery!

Opening Remarks at SXSW

Will the last blogger out please turn off the lights? – opening comments by Jeffrey Zeldman. Mostly a series of anecdotes about his SXSW experiences, with other light fare thrown in. Below are some more quotable quotations:

  • In client work, if you tell the client what they already know, they think you’re really smart.
  • For a long time I thought I didn’t know what I was doing, that I didn’t have a career.
  • Even if you’re an angry person with a chip on your shoulder, you’ll probably have a good time.
  • Web Standards (Guilt): People coming up to him saying, “Hi Jeffrey, I’m sorry, my site doesn’t validate.”
  • Dreams really do come true: Matt Mullenweg
  • SXSW – it’s not like any other conference

Make a Custom Alert and Break Everyone’s Code

I had Porter create a visually similar alert not too long ago, but I really like Steve’s custom alert because it overrides the window.alert method. It may not be perfect, but it’s a great solution in an environment like the one where I work — where content editors and software engineers that don’t know better try to program their own alerts. Heheheh… I’ll stop you now, my pretty!

MS Windows History

Randomly looking for some information on old versions of Windows on Microsoft’s site, I found an article that documents the history of the Windows OS. There’s a page dedicated to the history of IE as well.

Publishing Tools for Non-Programmers

For my first important blog entry, I have a question. How much freedom should a content publishing tool give a non-Web developer?

Here’s the situation: A new content publishing tool has been developed at my work place. A writer logs in to the tool, selects the type of content they want to publish, and is then presented with a number of form fields. There may be, for example, form fields for a headline, a byline, and a story. Simple, yes? OK.

Let’s assume a writer enters plain text in all fields. When the content is submitted to the CMS and produced as a Web page, all of the necessary markup is inserted (header tags around the headline, paragraph tags around the story, etc.). Excellent!

However, what should happen if the writer enters some HTML in any of the form fields?

Currently, this tool ignores it. Doesn’t care. It doesn’t even check for markup, so naturally anything, good or bad, could be entered. The argument presented by the tool developers is that the writers need to learn more about Web publishing and need to be more responsible for their content — both the stories and the markup.

Now, I’m all for people learning correct markup. And I’m all for people being responsible for their work. However no one is perfect, and mistakes in markup are bound to happen. Right? So what potential solutions are there to this?

  • Simple checks for matching tags could be done very easily with JavaScript (the publishing tool has a Web front end) or on the back-end (though it seems like a waste of a server trip).
  • Even more ideally, those input fields that potentially allow for markup could be accompanied by a lovely WordPress-like interface.
  • The server could just strip all markup, since writers aren’t supposed to be entering any, anyway.

But without any checks in place, markup like this is bound to go live:

<font color=red>My Headline</font>

In fact, it already has… as have some tables (for no apparent reason). When I see irresponsible use of markup in a fairly constrained environment like this, after writers have been given training on the tool, have been told not to write markup, and have been shown the potential results of their misuse and mistakes, that shouts to me, “Don’t let them do that!” Without setting up a process where a bunch of people have to check all of the writers’ work, I see no other way for ensuring the quality of the markup (or the complete lack of it) without something being built into the publishing tool.

Your comments are most welcome on this topic. What additional arguments can you present for or against checks in a publishing tool? What options for markup validation do other publishing/CMS systems offer? And how much freedom should a non-Web developer have with markup?